Posted by: admin 2月 15th, 2012

The following is from a newspaper column I wrote for the Sunday Morning Post in Hong Kong some years ago. But despite its age, and the fact that all things photographic have largely gone digital, the words may still retain their relevance for keen photographers.


'Take aim at a treasure trove of temptations'

Taking pictures for most people is simply a way to record special highlights from their own lives. Parents and children, friends, parties and holidays are occasionswhen the camera is brought out and snapshots taken; to be looked at later and the memories shared.

But photography can also be much more rewarding, when it is used as an exercise to train your eyes to see the world from new perspectives. Developing an eye for good photographs also means seeing more of the everyday world and increasing your enjoyment and understanding of events around you.

Hong Kong is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, with its incredible vistas and photo opportunities on offer to those who want it. And with a little thought, dazzling colours and unusual goings-on can be captured on camera, giving you good photographs that stand out in an album of snapshots.Hong_Kong_Victoria_Harbour2010-05-20_1.jpg

It is unnecessary to start taking photographs with expensive cameras and accessories; there are plenty of inexpensive cameras on the market which will do an excellent job, or you may already possess an old or secondhand camera that has been sitting in a drawer. As long as the lens and camera body still function, you can use it to take photographs.

But cameras are now hi-tech products; with the latest generation of "automatic-everything" cameras, there is no need even to study apertures and shutter speeds before you can take a good photograph, except that to take a good photograph, it's still up to each individual's understanding of light and picture composition. Applied with commonsense, photography can be richly rewarding.

So what is there in Hong Kong to excite the photographic imagination? Let's begin with the commonplace, remembering that we are learning to see things from new angles.

We can take a tour of Hong Kong Island, starting with Western District(the trams are among the most colourful photographic subjects in Hong Kong).

Along the route are still-thriving shops selling seafoods and herbal medicines. These shops have on open displays sharks fins, sea slugs and abalone among the other strange looking harvests from the ocean, laid out with weird and menacing looking Chinese roots and aphrodisiacs, and all lit with bright light bulbs under red lampshades.

The lights lend an overall redness to the picture which can be recorded on 'daylight' settings(colour temperature). The final effect, mixed with the available daylight, is unusal to say the least.

Sitting behind the shop counters are the salesmen with stolid expressions which may be off-putting at first, but this is also an opportunity to sharpen your communication skills with people. It is a piece of cake to ask for permission to take a photograph of the shop and its exotic merchandise.

Back in Central, one of the most interesting subjects, aside from the obvious hustle and bustle of people on business or browsing through the designer boutiques, is of the architecture itself - some might even say the lack of it.

Here, instead of standing back and taking snap shots of tall buildings, why not go in closer and study the details as well?

Further on down the road is Wanchai's waterfront area, made famous by films and books, so different from prim and proper Central. The colourful neon-lit seediness is of course best seen at night or early evening when there is still a glimmer of light left in the sky. This allows the evening sky to register on film or the camera sensor(CCD) instead of being plain black.

To capture the electric colours of neon on film or CCD you have to experiment with exposure times as these will have to be longer than normal (half a second to two second). Use a tripod or support the camera with a solid base, eg, against a wall. The spectrum of colours bouncing off walls and human faces can be astonishing.

Leaving the world of concrete and neon signs, and just a short distance along the waterfront, is the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter where fine looking yachts and boats are docked. Here the tangled lines of masts and riggings are a challenge.

Better still, take a trip to the Aberdeen typhoon shelter where boat people (once) lead a sea-borne way of life.

Coming back on shore to the narrow streets and alleyways of Hongkong, some of the most fascinating photographic subjects can be found in the swarming street markets. The trick here is to go in close to stalls without too much jostling and shoving. You may come away with photographs that say more about Hongkong than simple panoramic shots of Victoria Harbour.

Somewhere along the way you will probably discover that as well as learning to see and appreciate more of your environment, there is a feeling of creative satisfaction when a moment or scene is caught on camera - and that is one of the most rewarding aspects of taking pictures.